Robert W Monk reviews Six Gothic Tales, a Blu-ray collection of the Roger Corman directed and produced adaptations of the Edgar Allen Poe stories The Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, Tales of Terror, The Raven, The Haunted Palace, The Tomb of Ligeia, starring Vincent Price, Barbara Steele, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr, Jack Nicholson and Basil Rathbone…
In The Fall of the House of Usher, a young man attempts to uncover the threat of a curse on his fiancée’s family. In Pit and the Pendulum, a brother investigates the untimely death of his sister, played by Barbara Steele. Tales of Terror adapts three Poe classics, Morella, The Black Cat and The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, each starring a horror icon. The Raven is a slapstick comedy about three rival magicians linked by Poe’s most famous poem. In The Haunted Palace, a newcomer in a New England town has suspicious warlock ancestry. And in The Tomb of Ligeia, filmed in Norfolk and at Stonehenge, a widower’s upcoming marriage plans are thwarted by the undying jealousy of his deceased first wife…
Bringing together two bona fide legends – be it horror, or not – of American literature and cinema, Arrow Film’s collection of Six Gothic Tales does a sterling job of bestowing a lasting and restored beauty to this entertaining box of treasures. Bringing together Vincent Price’s ever quizzical frown and often demoniacal grin with some fine Poe-tic adaptation work from legendary fantasy, horror and sci-fi writer Richard Matheson, this box-set is the ideal companion for those long, winter nights so beloved of the 19th Century New England master of the macabre.
There are a few things that can be counted on with these evocatively treated tales of mystery and Gothic splendour. One is that Vinnie will cast a frown of tortured inner pain that treads the fine foot-path between hammy and otherworldly. Another is that there will be some early 60’s style hallucinatory credits or dream sequences somewhere along the line. And, without giving away any spoilers – if such a thing is possible for stories over 150 years old – there will be a burning house somewhere near the end.
As someone who grew up with the stories of Poe, there is something oddly comforting about seeing the familiar brought back to life in such high definition. Like a re-animated corpse bristling with extra intensity and material (and hell’s teeth, there certainly is a cavernous range of bonus features in this set), the melding of the dreamlike mystery plots of Edgar Allen Poe with Corman’s devotion to pushing budgets to their absolute limits and a commitment to entertainment over all else, this set is evidence of the very best in pulp-horror fiction.
This striving for popularism over all else is certainty no criticism, rather, it is high praise indeed, being as it is a celebration of the high camp and early 60’s excesses prevalent in the fantasy and horror genres of the time. So invite a few friends over, dim the lights and cross over to the other side with these four masters (I’m including Matheson as well).
And to finish off here’s my take (to be read in the voice of Vinnie Price):
“And then they did know, those that watched by the candle glow, that the crackles and the cackles and the otherworldly jackals, were verily inspired by the pen and ink of Poe …”
As well as various interviews with those involved with the films and genre specialists, there are short films, documentaries and a wealth of extra material. The box as a whole includes:
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of all six features, presented across six Blu-rays
- Original uncompressed mono PCM Audio for all films
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for all films
- Numerous new and archive commentaries, interviews and featurettes for each film
- Reversible sleeves featuring original and newly commissioned artwork for all six films
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.